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Childhood experiences

If we look at a typical dictionary definition of personality, we see.

  • Personality

The sum total of all the behavioural and mental characteristics by means of which an individual is recognised as being unique.

A dictionary definition for pathology is.

  • Pathology

The branch of medicine concerned with the cause, origin, and nature of disease, including the changes occurring as a result of disease.

Clearly, behaviours in older life are not a disease but the word ‘pathology’ represents the underlying possible causes of behaviours.

The way we have been brought up and the experiences we gain as children can have a big effect on our behaviours in adult life.
There may be many occasions where our behaviour is not appropriate to the situation due to underlying traits developed in childhood.

Understanding these behaviours may improve our understanding of our own motivation.

When we are young, situations often appear black and white and behaviours that were thought to be OK at the time have long since lost their original meaning and are less useful as an adult.

Others often see these unhelpful behaviours, which you are blind to, because they have become ingrained.

Leadership allows you to take a step back and evaluate your own situation from many angles and one of these is your own pathology.
It is important because a leader will shape an organisation or a team in their own image. So, it is important to get to grips with it.
Leaders are often in a position of power so it is doubly important to recognise some of your own shortcomings.

Rigidity and flexibility

Behaviours derived from early pathology can make your approach to issues rigid. Without flexibility your responses can be irritating to others as other options become closed due to this rigid thinking.

If a person has a fundamental problem with relationships and team work all the focus will be on the logic of managing the tasks.
The efficiencies of teamwork will be much reduced or lost.

Some of these pathology issues might show itself in a reluctance to accept feedback for example.


Like many aspects of your personality recognising intrinsic behaviours that may derive from your personal pathology requires you to firstly admit they may exist.

  • What pathology issues do you have?
  • How does it affect others?
  • How will you manage the issues better?

You may need to review some of your behaviours with a view to identifying possible pathology based actions.

Typical behaviours

Do you get angry easily for little reason when you examine it in the cold light of day?
Are you unable to express on the outside what you really feel on the inside?
Have you ever made a proactive effort with external parties to understand these issues via coaching or therapy?
Do you feel that you are always on the right track while others can’t seem to see the way?

Do you recognise any patterns in your behaviour over the years?
Do you lack emotion or are you continually impatient?

Try to get feedback from a close friend whose opinion you can trust.

Once you have a list of these negative behaviours look where and when they seem to appear.

Where, when and who?

Do you demonstrate these behaviours at different times of the day?
Are there certain projects that bring out these traits? May be you think that a particular project is poorly run and this creates frustrations?

Are meetings or discussions with small groups a problem? Is your voice or your opinion heard?
Does giving an important presentation feel you with anxiety which may colour your views?
Is it easy to get annoyed when communicating with a particular department?

Would they be specific with particular people? Some people are extremely good at getting the incorrect response from us.
A feeling of anger, apathy, irritation etc. can arise from the slightest reason. What is specific about these particular people that makes them so adept at ‘getting your back up’? Where does it happen and when?

You may need to rank or order these people in some fashion because of the influence they may have over your personal and professional life.
If you can you should try to solve the easier relationships first.

You might refine your issue a little deeper by trying to understand what you want from the relationship.
For example, trust, recognition, love, to feel useful in terms of security etc.


Remember that in all of the above occasions of inappropriate behaviour the basic fault lies with you.
If you feel that the behaviour was correct then the issue, in your own mind, must have arisen due to a problem with the other person’s behaviour.

Accepting that you behaved inappropriately is the first step to trying to modify your habit.
It is this habit which is maintaining a rigid and inflexible approach to relationships with individuals and groups.

However, trying to modify a behaviour that is pathological and may have its routes in your childhood is not easy.
There is no quick fix and there is a need to breakdown and understand the reasons behind the behaviour fully before trying to put it right.
There may be some easy things to try that may prove to be short term options, for example, counting to 10 before speaking in order to suppress your natural anger.

To understand this area better you may need to read a lot more specialist books in the area or seek professional help via a therapist.
It is a slow process to knock down your own wall and rebuild it in an improved manner.

A better understanding of the situation and the causes of your behaviour will lead you to an increase in your choices for actions.
You will have many more options available to you.

Other point to consider may be.

  • When presented with a difficult issue take your time. Consider the options and give the appropriate feedback at a later date.
  • Try to eradicate an underlying symptom by, for example, providing better training and delegation for your team.
  • Confront people on a one-to-one basis and consider the presence of a third party.

The option you eventually choose must be appropriate to the situation and not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.


One of the best ways to improve relationships in any organisation is to improve feedback.
There needs to be an honest and open atmosphere one that is devoid of apportioning blame.

If you work or live in a blame culture people will lie. They will cover up mistakes until it hits a critical level and then it may be too late.
It is important as a leader to cultivate a non blame culture so that mistakes can be rectified as soon as possible.

Such a culture will enhance positive feedback.

A better understanding of your pathology will help your motivation which in tern will benefit that of others.